Longhorn runners trample over Rice for 58-0 shutout

Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporter

The final 58-0 score at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium was just the bounce back Longhorns fans hoped for following the team’s humbling defeat to Arkansas last weekend in Fayetteville. But for a brief moment in the first quarter Saturday, Texas appeared like it might be in some trouble against Rice.

Junior quarterback Casey Thompson had just gotten rocked as he attempted to throw a deep ball, with the ball flailing through the air into Rice freshman Gabe Taylor’s hands. Thompson’s first interception in his Texas career set the Owls up with an opportunity to get into the game before it got out of hand.

The Owls then proceeded to march down the field, bursting into the redzone off a Khalan Griffin 31-yard dive play up the middle that fooled the Longhorns. After holding strong, Rice kicker Collin Riccitelli came out to attempt a chip-shot field goal that would’ve put the Owls on the board.

Then the Longhorns blocked the kick, only for a delay of game penalty to force a retry. Rice had benefited from its own misfortune.

Only Riccitelli missed his shot at redemption. The kick went wide left, inching about as close to the upright as Rice would on the scoreboard the whole night.

On the ensuing drive, junior running back Roschon Johnson took a direct snap on a third-and-two 72 yards for a house call, and Texas was off to the races.

“We said, as running backs, that we had to take the game over,” Johnson said. “We have an extremely high standard in the running back room. … We thought this was the perfect opportunity to bounce back and get things rolling.”

The Longhorn running backs rushed all over an inferior Rice defense to the tune of 418 total yards and six touchdowns. Four Texas running backs finished with more than 60 yards on the ground, with Johnson and sophomore running back Bijan Robinson combining for 239 themselves.

Junior quarterback Casey Thompson receives a snap in Texas’ 58-0 win over Rice. Saturday was Thompson’s first game as the Longhorns’ starter. Jack Myer/The Daily Texan

When Robinson scored his third touchdown of the first half, he appeared to do so with little effort. After bursting through the line, Robinson found himself in open space with only one man to beat. Rice safety Prudy Calderon stood no shot as he raced backward, hoping to catch Robinson before he cut to the inside, leaving 11 Rice defenders behind.

“It’s Bijan,” senior linebacker Demarvion Overshown said of how Robinson makes things look so effortless. “He’s unbelievable. I love that guy.”

With his first carry of the second half, Robinson became the 55th Longhorn to reach the 1,000 career rushing yards mark, the fastest to do so at Texas since former running back Jamaal Charles.

The running back show continued in the second half, with third string running back Keilan Robinson getting in on the fun himself. The Alabama transfer showcased his incredible speed as he burst through the Rice defense for a 65-yard touchdown run of his own.

It was only a matter of time before Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, who served as offensive coordinator at Alabama for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, found a way to get Keilan involved in a meaningful way.

Thompson also shined in his first start as Texas’ QB1. The junior completed 15 of his 18 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. In the 13 drives that Thompson has led this season, the offense has scored on 11 of them.

Redshirt freshman Hudson Card relieved Thompson of his duties on the second drive of the third quarter, long after the game’s fate had been sealed. He wound up completing two of his three passes for 29 yards.

Thompson looked the part as the starter. He’s waited three years for the opportunity to start, and he made the most of his chance Saturday night.

“I think I did a really good job of just executing the plays that were called,” Thompson said. “It was good being out there in front of the home crowd. I practice football every day and I’ve been playing it my whole life since I was 4 years old, so tonight didn’t really feel much different.